Bermuda Police Service
|Bermuda Police Service|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Bermuda Police Service area|
|Size||53 square kilometres (20 sq mi)|
|Agency executive||Michael DeSilva, Commissioner|
The Bermuda Police Service is the law enforcement agency of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda. It is responsible for policing the entire archipelago, including incorporated municipalities, and the surrounding waters. It is part of, and entirely funded by, the Government of Bermuda. Like the Bermuda Regiment, it is under the nominal control of the territory's Governor and Commander in Chief, although, for day-to-day purposes, control is delegated to a minister of the local government. It was created in 1879, as Bermuda's first professional police service. In organisation, operation, and dress, it was created and has developed in line with the patterns established by British police services, such as the City of Glasgow Police, and the Metropolitan Police Service.
History of law enforcement in Bermuda
Bermuda's first police, from settlement until 1879, had been nine Parish constables (one for each Parish). As had been the case in England, these positions were filled by men appointed for twelve months, unpaid service, until pay was introduced in the 19th Century. These appointments were compulsory, akin to jury service.
Dissatisfaction with the quality of this part-time constabulary led to the formation of the Bermuda Police Force under the Police Establishment Act, 1879. The new body consisted of ten full-time constables under Superintendent J. C. B. Clarke. Three of the constables were based in Hamilton, with Clarke, three in St. George's, with Chief Constable H. Dunkley, and two in Somerset, and there were still twenty-one part-time parish constables.
The size of the police force was trebled in 1901. The first detective was appointed in 1919, and the force was reorganised again in 1920, with eighteen constables recruited from the UK raising its strength to forty-six. The size of the force grew steadily over the following decades.
The Bermuda Reserve Constabulary was created in 1951. After the closure of Bermuda's Royal Naval Dockyard and associated military garrison in 1958, Police Headquarters and other elements relocated to Prospect Camp, the former military headquarters. A Women's Department was established in 1961 with the first five female police officers. A marine section was formed in 1962, with its first large boat, the Heron, being built by police officers in their spare time.
In the 1960s the Bermuda Police performed a new role: internal security, dealing with riots resulting from the struggle for racial equality. This culminated in 1977 with riots following the hanging of two members of the Black Beret Cadre convicted of five murders, including those of Governor Richard Sharples, his Aide-de-camp Captain Hugh Sayers, and the Commissioner of Police George Duckett. The death penalty had not been used in Bermuda for three decades. As the two men convicted were black, many blacks saw the death sentences as racially motivated.
Renaming as Bermuda Police Service
In 1995 the Bermuda Police Force was renamed the Bermuda Police Service as it was thought that the word "force" had unsavoury connotations. The Reserve Constabulary was renamed the Bermuda Reserve Police and adopted the same uniform as the full-time police officers. This was meant to address the common misconception they had suffered from, which was that they were not "real" police officers. Also in 1995, the United States Navy withdrew from Bermuda, leaving the Bermuda Government responsible for policing the whole of what was now Bermuda International Airport.
Bermuda was still feeling the effects of the recession of the early 1990s, and this had led to a reduction in the number of officers of the Bermuda Police Service. At the same time, the new Police Commissioner, Colin Coxall, was determined to modernise the Bermuda Police Service by returning it to its roots. It was felt that the service had lost familiarity with the community it was policing, with constables waiting in police stations to react to situations, rather than walking the beat, anticipating, and preventing them.
As the Bermuda Police Service attempted to redirect its efforts to more traditional "community policing", which required more officers, it found itself short of personnel. Many non-policing roles within the service were reassigned to civilians in order to place more police officers on the street, but it was ultimately decided to withdraw most of the detachment from the airport in order to make-up the shortfall elsewhere.
Policing of the airport, which had previously been split between the US Navy and the Bermuda Police, was divided between the new Airport Security Police (a privatised police force operating under the Department of Airport Operations - part of the Ministry of Transport), on the airside, and the Bermuda Police Service, which maintained a small detachment at its Airport Police Station, supplied from the complement of the St. George's Police Station, on the landside. That part of the former US Naval Air Station Bermuda which was not required for the operation of the airfield was fenced off and patrolled, until final decisions on the disposal of the land were made, by the Baselands Security. This was a unit of security guards recruited, trained, and operated by the Bermuda Police Service, which wore Bermuda Police uniforms, drove Bermuda Police cars, but whose personnel were civilians, without police powers.
As of 2009, the current strength of the Service is 468 officers, operating from four police stations in Hamilton, St. George's, Southside (the former US Naval Air Station) and Somerset, along with the Headquarters at Prospect Camp, and a small Marine Police Station on Barr's Bay, in Hamilton (which had been shared with the US Navy's Shore Patrol up until 1995. This has now been moved to the Royal Naval Dockyard). Following the closure of the US Naval Air Station in Bermuda, the Scenes Of Crimes officers have moved to a building there. Plans to create a single, new building to house both the Hamilton Police Station and the Magistrates Court on the corner of Court Street and Victoria Street have recently been carried through, with the Hamilton Police Station having relocated there. Sub police stations on Ord Road, in Warwick, and on St. David's Island have been discussed, though not opened. As with the Airport Police Station, these stations would be staffed only for parts of the day by detachments from one of the permanent stations. Such a sub station was actually created on Middle Road, in Warwick, a few years ago, but has since been closed.
Following a spate of shootings in May, 2009, believed to be gang-related, there were calls for increasing the size and deployment of police forces. Premier Ewart Brown called for "sustained, regular policing" and increased foot patrols "in recognised trouble spots". Police Commissioner Jackson said on 29 May that the Service faced "an unprecedented level of criminality" from a hardcore group of 50–100 violent individuals in four or five gangs. In response, the force will intensify patrolling of trouble-prone areas, by doubling the number of Armed Response Vehicles and deploying officers on an around-the-clock basis in those areas. Whereas the Emergency Response Team, whose members were normally engaged in other police duties but which could be brought together and despatched when required, were previously the only officers armed with anything other than a truncheon or baton, handguns and Tasers are increasingly seen carried by officers on day-to-day duties. The Bermuda Regiment is currently working with the Bermuda Police Service on assisting with, or possibly assuming, some of their maritime policing duties.
Most of the boats used by the Bermuda Police are too small to be used far from shore. As Bermuda is now responsible for policing a zone within a 200-mile radius of Bermuda, larger, seagoing vessels are required. The first large boat operated by the unit, the Heron, lacked the speed required to quickly respond to incidents beyond the reefline. The unit had subsequently also utilised sport fishing boats, including the Heron II, but took delivery in 2006 of a purpose-built patrol vessel, the Guardian, build by Australian shipyard Austal.
- Keith A. Forbes (2006-09-09). "Bermuda's History from 1900 to 1999". Bermuda Online. Archived from the original on 2006-10-07. Retrieved 2006-09-10.
- Burgess, Patrick & Dale, Amanda (23 May 2009). "Police name shooting victim; three more men shot this morning". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- "Premier calls for increased Policing in trouble spots". The Royal Gazette. 26 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Dale, Amanda (27 May 2009). "Premier calls for more community beat officers, armed units". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Dale, Amanda (29 May 2009). "Police: At least 100 youths in four or five gangs". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
- Marinelog: Bermuda Marine Police Unit has a new Guardian.
- Bermuda Police 16M - Austal Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
- Official website
- "The late Mr. George Tear". The Royal Gazette. 13 April 1915.
- POTSI (archived): Period photographs of the Bermuda Police